Leadership Qualities To Develop At Work

What do Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin have in common? Believe it or not, they share the same character trait as Winston Churchill and Steve Jobs. They are all able to wow audiences, to fill the room with a certain energy (whether bad or good), and receive standing ovations. Yes, all of these figureheads have charisma in common. People feel drawn to them, attracted to something that makes them stand out and makes them different. Some people are born with it, and others teach themselves how to do it.  

Steve Jobs, for example, is known for his ability to convince others to believe almost anything. His charismatic characteristics were referred to as his Reality Distortion Field. The term implied that he was able to distort an audience's sense of reality, and to make them believe that every task at hand was possible. More importantly, Jobs trained himself to be charismatic. Yes, charisma can be learnt. It's all about personal mindsets you can adopt, and the nonverbal cues you can use to present them. If you want to boost your charisma, practice a combination of power, warmth and presence. Finally, learn to be a great storyteller.


Power is what others perceive as your ability to make things happen. Show that you believe in your abilities, values, and knowledge. Your confidence will inspire your employees' faith in you and your leadership.

The cues that help you communicate your personal power lie in your posture, your dress code, and your voice.

  • Posture: Stand with your arms open. Own your space. Sit up straight. Stand tall with your head held high.

  • Dress code: Dress appropriately - Act the part, and you will become the part (William James)

  • Voice: The act of talking slowly tells others that you are in control. Being loud is not equal to being dominant.


Confidence is essential but there is a line between great confidence and narcissism. Going to the wrong end of the scale, you risk disengaging people. Stay warm and connected. It's important to know that you cannot fake warmth. You can be polite with gentle nods and friendly smiles but warmth comes from deeper inside. Remove barriers and let people in. Connect and love.

"Power without love is reckless and abusive, love without power is sentimental and anaemic" - Martin Luther King Jr



You need to be completely here, in this moment. Take Bill Clinton as an example. Many say that when they're with him, they not only feel his power and sense of warm engagement, they can also feel his complete presence.

You want to maintain a high attention to the people you are interacting with. The ability to notice when your mind wanders and redirect your thoughts back into the present moment is a leadership habit. It takes constant practice but you'll find this ability rewarding when you want to be appealing to others.

Some nonverbal behaviours you should pay attention to:

  • Eye contact: Make eye contact with those you talk to. Warm, friendly eye contact tells others that you are present and interested in what they have to say.

  • Body language: Open your arms and shoulders towards ones you are conversing with. Avoid distracting habits, like playing with a pen or glancing at your phone.

Spare a minute, and think about the following response that someone gave when asked about her impression of the two English political leaders, William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli, after dining with them:

“When I left the dining room after sitting next to Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England. But after sitting next to Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest woman in England”

Lessons: Share your confidence with others. Show your personal power but do not forget to focus your energy and attention on their presence.

The stories you tell

Have you heard the story Steve Jobs told Stanford’s graduates about how he stumbled into inventing beautiful typography for the first Macintosh? He put his story in the context of his adopting history. He drew people in with the value that is core to most if not all: family. He shared personal information. He never graduated from college but he was giving a speech at one of the world’s most prestigious universities. The irony intrigued people to want to hear more. His emotions drew you in and inspired you to “follow your heart”, and ”stay hungry, stay foolish”. If you haven’t, watch the talk and you'll know what I mean.

Lessons: Learn to craft meaningful, emotional stories. Practice the arts of humor, metaphor, and symbolism so you can entertain while you inform.

In brief, everyone can learn to enhance their charisma but it does involve a lot of work. You need to understand your power, practice your presence and deliver the two with warmth. Learn to tell stories that people want to hear, that talk to their heart and inspire them to follow you.

By using Impraise, you can easily develop the skills you need to successfully supervise your team. Ask your team to send you feedback anytime and engage with your team members to understand where your key strengths and potential blind spots lie. Over time you will develop your own personal brand of charisma.


Check out our webinar here for further insights on leadership development.


Photo by Oscar Nilsson